Thursday, March 23, 2023

Trouble in Tucson -- Again


Wendall—every other Thursday


Like my blog mates, I’ve just returned from the Left Coast Crime conference in Tucson, where I was finally able to meet fellow MIE authors Annamaria, Kwei, and Guest of Honor Sujata in person, reconnect with Jeff and the wonderful Barbara Zilly, and see and speak to many other wonderful authors and readers.


It took place at the El Conquistador resort, which was particularly gorgeous in the early morning and late afternoon.


My first morning walk.

The afternoon view from our balcony.

It made me think about how certain places, certain landscapes, circle back in our lives, gathering meaning each time. Tucson is one of those for me.


My grandfather had four sisters. My Great Aunt Dee was the adventurous one, leaving their Myrtle Beach, S.C. farm for Arizona when she was in her twenties. I would see pictures of her standing by saguaros and laughing. Her sisters would go to visit and come back with inappropriate pictures like this (!), taken in 1962, and tales of chiles and cacti and sky. 


My four great aunts on one of their Arizona/Mexico trips...

As a child, I ate those stories up and went to visit as soon as I could. It was my first real encounter with the West and the beginning of my love affair with skies like these.


Behind the El Conquistador

Years later, when I was working in the film business, my director boss took on a television movie called Wheels of Terror, with the tag line: “Evil waits. With the motor running.” I didn’t mind the content, because I got to live in a hotel in Tucson and spend every day and night out in the same stunning landscape that surrounds the conference hotel.


I also got per diem, most of which wound up in the cash registers of the extraordinary used and vintage stores on 4th Avenue. I would spend my days off going through racks and racks of 40s and 50s cocktail dresses and beaded sweaters, all available for around five dollars, and lugging dozens of treasures home. I still have this 40s dress from those days and always feel like Irene Dunne or Ginger Rogers when I wear it.


Dress snagged from Tucson vintage shop for a song.

A few years later, one of my dear friends asked if I wanted to meet her at the stunning, historic Arizona Inn. This oasis in the city boasts newspapers on wooden holders, ice cream socials, and quiet. It became my go-to writing retreat in the summers, where it was so hot the rooms went on sale. It is truly like taking a trip back in time and if you ever get the chance to visit, do.


Tichnor Brothers, Publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

So, I arrived last week at the LCC conference already in love, and the grounds of the hotel only reinforced my passion for the place. 


Looking toward the entrance.

A view of the pool.

At the conference, I was lucky enough to be on a panel about “Creating Memorable Characters,” with authors Jamie Mason, D.M. Rowell, and Celeste Connally. Naomi Hirahara was a fabulous moderator, even though, as you can see in the second photo, I don't think she believed me.


The "Creating Memorable Characters" panel.

I don't think Naomi's buying it.

I'm sorry Annamaria didn’t get to see enough wildlife. We had a few encounters and it was definitely my first real life viewing of a javelina, as we spotted two at dawn beneath our balcony. We thought at first it might be dogs, but they were peccaries, all right.


Javelinas under our balcony.

Hard to see, but there!

Here's a National Parks photo so you can see what they actually look like.

From the National Parks cams.


We also chased a Vermillion flycatcher until it finally landed on this branch.

These gorgeous birds were all over the property.


Tucson. I can’t wait to come back.


-- Wendall


P.S. Annamaria, Kwei, Michael Stanley, and I all have articles in the new issue of Mystery Readers Journal, out today.


  1. Also pieces by Deon Meyer, Bryony Rheam, and others. Excellent.

    1. Michael, thanks for adding those names.

  2. Wendall, I love hearing about your family history in this lovely area. So happy we could have lunch together in the beautiful Oro Valley!

    1. Sujata, what a gorgeous place to meet. And I loved your interview with Juliet. Hope you are home safely and look forward to seeing you again, soon.

  3. That was a fascinating panel, Wendall. Great to see you - and to finally meet James!

  4. Barbara loved spending time with you (I did too).
    She also loves staying at the Arizona Inn (I do too). And she's mesmerized by the Arizona skies in a Georgia O'Keefe sort of way. In other words, Wendall, I think it's safe to say a good time was had by all!

    1. I felt such a kinship with Barbara, Jeff. And with you, as ever.

  5. Oh this is so lovely and I'm so jealous of all of you who got to be and meet there in person!!!!

  6. It was my first trip to Tucson, and I was mesmerized by its (for me) exotic beauty. One of the many things that I love about LCC is the locations it brings us to—places very often completely new to East-Coast me. AA